The New York City Subway Survival Guide


You can never predict what will happen during your train ride. Although these people seem fairly tame, you never know when a random stranger will turn from quiet to creepy. (Sara Azoulay/The Observer)

Before setting out on a camping trip, many people decide to read a survival guide just to be cautious in the wilderness. New York City, the “concrete jungle,” is a whole different wilderness and needs a separate survival guide.  In this jungle, there are no vines to swing on or elephants to ride (I wish). Instead, we are graced with the luxurious underground MTA subway system. Whether you commute to Fordham everyday or just venture around the city, it is almost impossible to avoid the subway.  From the horror stories I’ve heard of the subway, sometimes I believe that Tarzan got the better end of the deal. Here are a few survival tips for the most frightening part of our big jungle.

Bring Distractions: This is probably the most important tip, especially if you’re traveling alone. For your own sanity, an iPod or book is necessary on the subway. They not only cure your boredom, but they provide a distraction from the smell and obscenities that consume the subway. Just don’t play your music too loud so that everyone hears your angry hardcore music because people will hate you.

Stay Away From The Crazies and Switch Cars: Let’s just face it, there are a lot of fascinating (OK, crazy) people in New York City who seem to really enjoy the subway. Most of the time, there is no real harm in listening to some guy ramble about his pet chicken or whatnot, but sometimes it’s best to just switch cars at the next stop. It’s always good to go near the conductor’s car or just a car with more people (more witnesses!). One time, a friend of mine had to switch cars because this guy was shouting about how he was going to kill everyone with a pen. It seems pretty ridiculous, but to stay safe, it’s best to stay away from these people.

Ride with Friends: If you could ride with a large group of people, almost all creepy situations can be avoided. There’s strength in numbers, so you should be safe with a group of people you know.

Don’t Eat On The Train: Not only is this horribly unsanitary, but it’s frowned upon by other passengers on the train. People will stare, whisper and make you feel extremely uncomfortable if you whip out a burrito to scarf down on the train. So, make sure to keep your meals above ground.

Avoid Backpacks as Your Bag of Choice: People on the subway do not enjoy other passengers who wear backpacks. I know this from personal experience, and in my defense, I was completely unaware of the fact that I was smacking people with it. The problem with backpacks is that you don’t have eyes on the back of your head, so not only are you inadvertently attacking people but you can easily be pick-pocketed as well. To all people reading this that I might have hurt with my backpack, I am truly sorry.

Just Wait For The Next Train: I will never understand why people want to squeeze their way into a crowded train. The next train will come shortly after, and even if it doesn’t, there is nothing worth enduring a packed train full of grumpy New Yorkers. Nothing.

Don’t Talk About Your Personal Problems Too Loudly: If you’re with a friend, it’s best not to talk so loudly. One time, I was discussing my desire to bake some brownies with a friend rather loudly. This led to a stranger coming up to us and asking if he could partake in said brownie-making activities. As much as I would love to invite everyone over to bake brownies, I could have avoided this situation by lowering my voice. Nobody wants to listen to your problems with your significant other either, so keep your voice down low.

Be Anti-Social: Unfortunately, life isn’t like the movies and not everyone you meet on the subway is some spectacular life-changing individual. I’ve had a load of really creepy encounters only because I’m friendly and respond to people when they ask me a question. Sometimes, it’s just beneficial to ignore people and be distant.

Take Some Self-Defense Courses: If you are severely frightened of being on the subway alone and/or at night, you could take some self-defense courses. That way, if you are put in a potentially dangerous situation, you can defend yourself. Personally, it is my life dream to become a master of Tae Kwon Do. I have yet to attend a class, but it will happen (eventually, I swear). Fordham offers Tae Kwon Do classes Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; times differ each week so keep an eye out for posters around school!